Where is Jesus Christ in our pain?
Where is Jesus Christ in our pain? Well, I think I saw him today … he was in the concerned face of a work colleague … nay, a brother who flew from Portugal to be alongside his friend, his ‘brother’ at the memorial service of his 20-year-old son. Yes, I saw Jesus in the face of another football dad who had watched Nick play in Pop Warner, seen his leadership on the high school field, and yet today looked around and thought, ‘O God, help them, comfort them, and God … O God, it could have been my boy!’ Oh, and I saw the face of Jesus in anguish mixed with love of players who had graduated with Nick – wait, could it have been just two years ago they were all together?! And, I felt Jesus in the packed out, love filled, standing room only crowd who came together to honor Nick.
It really was a moving time as hundreds came together to honor and pay tribute to a standout young man.
And yet, even the minister who officiated today’s service admitted to being angry with God, as he thought out loud about God, and his questions for him. But here’s what I would like to say: No matter our circumstance, no matter our trial, God will never leave us alone. And in our pain--in times of suffering … where is God then? Has he abandoned us? Definitely not!
One of the best explanations I have read on the subject of ‘Where is God in our pain?’ comes from Gordon MacDonald, a great Christian thinker of our day. MacDonald spent time at the Nine-Eleven site, immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Centers. Included in his journal are these thoughts: “And more than once I asked myself—as everyone asks—is God here? And I decided that he is closer to this place than any other place I’ve ever visited. The strange irony is that, amidst this absolute catastrophe of unspeakable proportions, there is a beauty in the way human beings are acting that defies the imagination. Everyone—underscore, everyone—is everyone else’s brother or sister. There are no strangers among the thousands at the work site. Everyone talks; everyone cooperates; everyone does the next thing that has to be done. No job is too small, too humble, or, on the other hand, too large.
Tears ran freely, affection was exchanged openly, exhaustion was defied. We all stopped caring about ourselves. The words “it’s not about me” were never more true.
No church service; no church sanctuary no religiously inspiring service has spoken so deeply into my soul and witnessed to the presence of God as those hours last night at the crash site.
In all my years of Christian ministry, I never felt more alive than I felt last night . . . as much as I love preaching the Bible and all the other things that I have been privileged to do over the years, being on that street, giving cold water to workmen, praying and weeping with them, listening to their stories was the closest I have ever felt to God. Even though it sounds melodramatic, I kept finding myself saying, “This is the place where Jesus most wants to be.”1
Have you been at a place of extreme tragedy, sadness or death? I was today—as I sat in a service for a young man who died unexpectedly and much, much too soon! For sure, in that place, there was a hush of holiness nearby . . . as the fragility of mortality was realized by all in attendance. I have often sat alongside a dying individual, sometimes with family members nearby, ministering to their needs – and it is true, there is certainly a holy reverence in this most intimate time.
Sometimes God uses pain for good in our lives too. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
The psalmist wrote, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”2 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”3 These are truths you can share with those who are hurting. . . and by all means, let them know they are not alone! The brother of our Lord wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”4
Oh yes, God is near . . . in fact, God is much closer than you think. He is as close as you will let him be, and he loves you completely. Jesus Christ has experienced everything you ever will and more in this lifetime, and is worthy of your trust. He is right there with you in your pain.
1 Finding God in Unexpected Places, Philip Yancey
2 Psalm 34.18
3 Psalm 147.3
4 James 4.8